San Diego Area Ballkids Saved the Day at the West Coast Pro Am Fundraiser
It was a perfect match to pair up San Diego area junior players and the 2016 West Coast Pro-Am in November at the Del Mar Country Club. The event was hosted by USTA Foundation and former world No. 4 James Blake, also a headliner for the champion World Team Tennis Aviators. The professional and amateur adult players along with sports celebrities past and current enjoyed the event that raised approximately $150,000 to support groups such as local National Junior Tennis & Learning (NJTL) programs in Southern California.
Blake and the organizing committee gathered an amazing “pro” staff that consisted of legendary coaches Nick Bollettieri and Tom Gullikson and former touring pros Pam Shriver, Mark Philippoussis and Jeff Tarango. Current top players included Bradley Klahn, Christina McHale, Sam Querrey, Steve Johnson, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, CoCo Vandeweghe and Taylor Fritz. Along with fitness trainer Shaun T., celebrity guests included the late actor Alan Thicke.
The schedule of events included early morning private hitting sessions with pros and a ballkid training class with about 15 local San Diego juniors and NJTL players, who later participated in the youth clinic led by Bollettieri. Southern California Pros Steve Riggs, the Director of Tennis for the City of Irvine, and Aurelie Udall, a USPTA Head Professional at Tierrasanta Tennis Club, were instrumental in the success of the ballkid program. Also special thanks to NJTL Coaches Cheryl Olivas-Dieli and Willie Williams, who both served as ballkid coordinators throughout the entire day.
The San Diego area ballkid crew consisted of Guila Piraino, Isaiah Kasawa, Maurice Anderson, Andreas Udall, Ryan Tran, Nathan Tran, Darren Hu, Patrick Riggs, Mikayla Riggs, Hero Le, Diego Sandoval and Antanae Hanna. They were instrumental in helping at the main event, a Pro-Am round robin, followed by a meet-and-greet reception and a wonderful dinner at the beautiful Rancho Sante Fe area club. Highlights included a moving speech by local El Cajon NJTL star Shatoo Momahad, whose speech preceded a live auction to benefit the USTA Foundation.
“Most of the juniors were first time ballkids and they learned the skills very quickly,” said Riggs, named the PTR California Member of the Year. “They had a lot of fun rolling and tossing balls. They looked like ballkid pros and made the event great. A side perk was they were able to take pictures with some of their tennis heroes and get inspired to play the game.”